Express & Star

Redevelopment of crumbling eye infirmary delayed as developer pulls out

A long-awaited plan to transform Wolverhampton's crumbling eye infirmary has suffered a major setback after the developer pulled out of the project.

A sight for sore eyes - the crumbling infirmary.

A deal had been agreed with the council's preferred developer, Gr8 Space, and the site's owners to revamp the infamous eyesore on the edge of the city centre in Chapel Ash.

But problems with funding have led to Gr8 Space pulling out of the scheme.

Site owner BZ Property Holdings said it had now managed to bring a new developer on board but that the delay had pushed the development back by up to 18 months. It means it will be at least next year before any work starts on the site.

Council bosses have been trying to get the run-down eye infirmary site redeveloped for years due to its key position on the gateway into the city centre on Compton Road but have faced a series of hurdles.

BZ Property said the city council insisted on a fire-damaged Victorian clock tower being retained as part of the new development.

It was particularly disappointing as a redevelopment plan had pre-approved in principal by council bosses who supported the project.

The development will be residential, though the number of apartments has not been confirmed. It will also feature supported living for older people.

BZ Property managing director Zed Ahmed said: "The council insisted on the retention of the tower block building located towards the centre of the site, the same building that had previously sustained heavy fire and structural damage under the ownership of the NHS.

"In March this year, after a whole 18 months, Gr8 Space failed to complete on the contract, sending us back to square one. This came as a huge disappointment to us and equally to Wolverhampton City Council as their preferred choice of developer was unable to proceed with the redevelopment of the site.

"We as a company had to quickly come to terms with the fact that we had just lost a whole 18 months and would have new financial obligations to bring about a successful resolve to our current situation."

Nick Liddell, a director at Gr8 Space, said funding agreed with the West Midlands Combined Authority was diluted due to the pandemic, meaning the project couldn't go ahead.

A new developer, LCE Architects, has now been brought on board to lead the revamp.

Mr Ahmed said: "We are confident that before the end of the year we will have a planning application submitted to the council and pending its approval, building works will commence on site in 2022."

A Wolverhampton Council spokesman said: "The agreement between the freeholder, BZ Property Holdings, and Gr8 Space has now lapsed and has not been renewed by the freeholder.

“The council is closely monitoring this given the concerns about the current condition of the building and its historic elements.”

The former eye infirmary has fallen to ruins and become one of the city's biggest eyesores over recent years.